He Is Worthy
He is Worthy
1 Peter 3:13-17
We started this sermon series on the book of 1 Peter back in September, and after taking a break from it for the month of December, we are back to 1 Peter. So turn there with me this morning if you would, and since it’s been a while, let’s begin with some review:
The author of this book is Peter – a fisherman turned Apostle; one of the 12 men Jesus called to follow him, to learn from him, and to carry the message of the gospel to the world after his ascension. The 12 weren’t Jesus’ only followers – we read in Acts that a week after his ascension to heaven, there were 120 men and women gathered waiting for the Spirit. But Peter was one who was present with Jesus from day one, and eventually became one of the leaders of the early church.
He is writing this letter to the scattered church in what is now Turkey, to encourage them. They had been scattered throughout several Roman regions through colonization as the empire spread, as we saw back in chapter 1, and were facing persecution for following Jesus. When you say you worship a new King, that doesn’t go over so well.
So after talking about what Christ’s life, death, and resurrection has accomplished for these believers – a living hope, an inheritance that can’t be taken away or faded – Peter began to instruct them on how they should think of themselves as the people of God – a holy nation with one King; a royal priesthood where every person has access to God; a people for God’s possession, that before we belong to political parties, social clubs, companies, churches, Bible Studies, sports teams, belonging to him even before belonging to their spouses and families, we belong to God.
Psalm 100:3 – Acknowledge that the Lord is God. He made us, and we are his – his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Identity that transforms
With that identity in mind, Peter continues, it should transform the way you live, whether it’s in public life, the workplace, or in the privacy of your marriage. I know some of you do restoration – maybe cars, or furniture, or even remodeling your house. If you’ve ever pulled up carpet and put new flooring down, lost weight on a diet or exercise plan, or replaced a part in something you own, you know what a transformation requires: It requires not only removing the old, but replacing with something new.
Jodi and I tackled a renovation project at our place while in quarantine this past Summer, where we replaced windows and siding across the front of our house. And if you’ve ever taken on a project like that, you know it doesn’t happen all at once, and it can take a while!
And when it comes to spiritual transformation, it’s no different. One of the roles of the Holy Spirit in us is to facilitate that transformation. Reveal sin; make much of Christ. Rinse and repeat. It doesn’t happen all at once, and it can take a while! And that’s perfectly ok. God is not in a rush; he is patient, compassionate, and he will see to it that what he started gets finished.
So after explaining who we are in Christ, and now Peter urges we willingly participate in this transformation. The key verses are in Chapter 2:11,12, which is two-fold:
11 Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and exiles to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul. 12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits. -- 1 Peter 2:11-12 (CSB)
So what does it look like to conduct ourselves honorably in this moment in history? What does it look like to abstain from sinful desires at your workplace or in your home? What does it look like to conduct yourself honorably when you are in a crowd of unbelievers? How should the church act in a world of hatred, division, and corruption?
The answer today is the same as it was in Peter’s day:
3:8 Finally, all of you be like-minded and sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble, 9 not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you may inherit a blessing.
And if you go back to 2:12, the end result of those two halves being put together – putting off sin and putting on Christ – is that God is glorified. That’s actually the outcome of the entire Story of God! It’s that one thing that God wants more than anything else – that we see him for who he really is. That we know him and love him for his goodness, his greatness, his justice, his sovereignty, his heart for widows, orphans, the outcast, the lonely. And the Story is that one day the glory of God will cover the earth like water covers the sea. Full and complete saturation of God’s glory!
That’s what the church was designed to advance and promote! And Peter’s question then in verse 13 Who then will harm you if you are devoted to what is good? Who will harm you if your goal in life is to advance and promote the glory of the only wise and good Lord of heaven and earth by being compassionate, humble, and sympathetic???!
And Peter’s audience, and maybe even you when you read that, you kind of hesitate a little bit, right? You might even think, well – I could give you some names of people or groups who would harm me.
- 64 years ago this week, 5 missionary men, including Jim Elliot and Nate Saint, flew an airplane into a jungle in Ecuador to share the gospel with the Haourani people… after making contact, and landing near the tribe, all five were killed with arrows or spears by the very people they were there to share Jesus with.
- More recently, in Columbia South America, since we started this sermon series in September, 60 churches were closed by a paramilitary drug-trafficking group.
- On Christmas Eve, just two weeks ago, the terror group Boko Haram raided a village in Nigeria, burning the church, kidnapping the priest, and killing 11.
- And of course, there is Peter’s audience, who are most likely alive while Nero is the emperor and burning Christians alive in Rome, are answering Peter’s question, “who will harm you if you are devoted to doing what is good?” with, “uh, Nero???!”
Peter knows this. He was with Jesus when he looked at the disciples and said, “They will hand you over to be persecuted, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name.”
Generally speaking, doing good for someone else makes them want to do good too. Generally speaking. But 2 Timothy 3:12 says if you want to live a godly life in Jesus, you will be persecuted. Living your life for the glory of God is upstream, against the current of culture. So he continues.
14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear them or be intimidated,
Again, I love how Peter is well aware of our humanity, and our weaknesses. Why would he say “don’t be afraid or intimidated” if that weren’t our natural response? Our temptation, if we are facing hardship when we didn’t do anything wrong, is to get defensive or push back, or if you don’t like confrontation, you soften things a little or withdraw in silence.
15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 Yet (even then) do this with gentleness and respect, (don’t be a jerk) keeping a clear conscience, so that when you are accused, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame. 17 For (and here is Peter’s conclusion) it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
And I don’t know about you, but my natural response is, “How is that encouraging, Peter?!” Don’t you mean it’s better to be punished when you’re guilty than if you’re not? Like imagine this kid who gets put in timeout for something he didn’t do, sitting there in his room or whatever going, “oh yeah, this is better”. Right!?
But think about who Peter is writing to: I know this is hard for us to imagine today, but if it comes to blows here in Riverside where the police are patrolling and Christian gatherings like this one are illegal, what is your motivation to still show up and risk imprisonment? If meeting in person is so important that we’re willing to do a random, last minute 4pm service today, is meeting in person still important if it’s illegal? If I could be beaten and thrown in prison for leading it? If you could face trouble for being associated with River City?
If the authorities show up here and break up the gathering, Peter just said, don’t be a jerk; don’t be afraid or intimidated, in fact, when they come for you, you should be ready to tell them with gentleness and respect about the hope you have… and you might still suffer.
And my question to you, that you’d better know the answer to is WHY is it better to suffer for good?
And here’s the answer: BECAUSE HE IS WORTHY!! That’s what he means in verse 15, when he says “in your hearts, regard Christ the Lord as holy”. He is worthy!
If your NY resolution was to lose weight, you probably set goals, bought equipment, subscribed to plans, spent money, because in your mind, the end result of being in shape or a different shape, or getting healthy is worth the effort. That is a worthy goal, and so you count the cost and you buy the stuff.
But then as you start working out and denying the pop machine or alcohol or whatever, the worthiness of that goal may change. You get about 5 days in and it’s like, eh, it was the thought that counted. It’s not worth the work it takes. So you take shortcuts or just quit altogether.
You knew it would be hard, but it’s not worth it being that hard.
Jesus said in Luke 14 we need to count the cost of following him. He said, “if you come to me but you love your dad, your mom, your wife or your kids more than you love me – if you love your life, your house, your friends, your job, your country more than you love me, you cannot be my disciple. You won’t be able to follow me.”
Why? Because when the hardship comes; when someone is threatening your family, your job, your home, your kids, when the co-worker is incessantly mocking you and making you feel stupid, the temptation to walk away is going to be incredibly high. And Jesus warns that once salt loses its saltiness, it can’t be made salty again.
So what makes Jesus worthy of giving up your life, your family, to follow him? What makes Jesus worthy of someone leaving their friends and family to plant a church overseas or be a missionary to hostile tribes? What makes him worthy of you abstaining from sinful desires and instead conducting yourself honorably in 2021 as things in our country and our world seem to be in upheaval?
The answer is found in Revelation 5, starting in verse 9, the heavenly choirs singing this song to Jesus: “You are worthy to take the scroll and open it’s seals, because you were slaughtered, and you purchased people FOR GOD by your blood from very tribe and language and people and nation.” Skip to verse 12, “They said with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
The answer to the question why we should give our lives to be transformed by the King of Kings; the reason why we can abstain from sinful desires and instead love our enemies and not be afraid of persecution or mocking or intimidation – the reason we will still find ways to gather in person even if it’s illegal is because JESUS IS WORTHY OF IT! He’s the only one who’s worthy of it! And what makes him worthy of it is that he allowed himself to be slaughtered for you!
1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God.
Christ suffered for sins once for all – the righteous (that’s Jesus) for the unrighteous (that’s us), and the purpose of his suffering was to bring us to God.
And here’s the good news: We may suffer for Christ, but we will never suffer like Christ. We may suffer for doing good, but he suffered once for sin. We will never have to do that. Jesus carried the weight of every single time you let your addiction get the best of you; every time you found yourself alone and chased that click online; every time you let anger or bitterness find a place in your home; every time you let your heart wonder what it would be like to be with someone else; every time you lied, cheated, stole, gossiped, or envied your neighbors house or car or lawnmower – Jesus carried the weight of your sin and mine on himself, and that is something those in Christ will never have to do.
And his suffering for doing good was designed to give us an audience with God, something we could never have accomplished if we lived a billion years. We may suffer in this life, but we never have to question if our suffering separates you from God. Christ is our righteousness! Our identity is in him! He traded places with you! And that is what the angel choir in heaven cannot get over. They never get tired of singing about how worthy the Lamb of God is, who was slaughtered to take away the sins of the world.
Romans 8:35 – Who now can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? NO! Paul writes: In all of those things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So even if the answer to Peter’s question, “Who can harm you if you are devoted to what is good?” is terror groups, corrupt governments, or just the person who sits next to me at school or at work; Peter’s encouragement to you is that because Jesus suffered for doing what is good, you can rest assured that
- Suffering does not mean you are outside the love or the purposes of God. Jesus was perfectly inside the will of his Father and still suffered. V17 You may be as well.
- Suffering in this life is not the end of the story. You may die for your faith, but it is not the end.
- Look at the end of verse 18 – He was put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.
- Verse 22 – He has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him. There is literally not a single thing that happens that is not under his control. So if he’s allowed it into your life, he will also give the grace, the wisdom, the courage, the strength you need for that moment.
- With Christ in you, you can boldly stand firm in moments of hardship. You don’t have to be a jerk. You don’t have to return evil for evil. You don’t have to insult the guy who insults you. You can conduct yourself honorably and be ready to respectfully and gently give defend the reason you have hope.
So if you’re here today and you have not yet put your faith and trust in Christ, while we plead with you to do that today, at the same time Jesus tells us to count the cost. It might mean you lose everything you now hold dear.
But to those in Christ who persevere and endure to the end, here is what Revelation 7 says of them: “They are before the throne of God and they serve him day and night in his temple. The one seated on the throne will shelter them: They will no longer hunger; they will no longer thirst; the sun will no longer strike them, nor will any scorching heat. For the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; he will guide them to the springs of the waters of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
It’s worth the cost.